010- ‘THOUGH WE TRAVEL THE WORLD OVER TO FIND THE BEAUTIFUL, WE MUST CARRY IT WITH US, OR WE FIND IT NOT.’ – RALPH WALDO EMERSON
IN CONVERSATION WITH VYSHNAVI OF DVIBHUMI
Name: Vyshnavi Doss
Profession: Jewellery Designer
Works at: Dvibhumi
Currently lives in: Singapore
Music, architecture, and Bali traditions are all part of the local inspirations that get translated into effortlessly chic, wearable silver by Vyshnavi, founder of Dvibhumi. At the heart of every collection are strong flavours, local craftsmanship, and unique, modern silhouettes that embody the spirit of its inspiration. Vyshnavi’s jewellery is intensely personal, declares confidence and exudes femininity- much like the woman she designs for.
Taking its beautiful name from the Sanskrit language meaning ‘Two Earths’, ‘Dvibumi’ represents the work Vyshnavi does- a marriage of tradition and modern that combines stories from India, the place where she grew up, and Singapore the place where she currently lives and works from.
What about jewellery fascinates you?
I had to think hard about this one! There are two qualities I find irresistible. The first is that jewellery is highly emotional. It has always meant something more. We have always attached deeper value, emotion and several meanings to it: a symbol of wealth, a token of love, a charm for good luck, a souvenir of good times, an heirloom, an investment, and so on. And this is hugely encouraging because it allows me to imbue jewellery with new meanings and messages I choose, and reach out to people with ease. The second aspect is the physical one. With jewellery you can explore form and proportion that is in contrast to the human form, and still create something that is beautiful and wearable. Jewellery is divergent and always adds a new dimension. It pushes the boundaries of what is ‘wearable’.
Where did you start from and where do you want to go with your work? What is your ultimate goal as a designer?
I spent a decade in the advertising business across India and Singapore. It was during this time that I travelled in Southeast Asia and became increasingly aware that in its art, architecture, textile tradition, theatre and worship, Asia has compelling design stories waiting to be told to the world. That was when Dvibhumi was born. I have no formal training in jewellery, so the process was slow, and after several rounds of rejecting my own work, I painstakingly put together three capsule stories born out of the most enduring memories from my childhood and travels. I started Dvibhumi to create contemporary design with a narrative that is firmly rooted in Asian heritage. In a world where fast fashion is quick to dismiss curiosity, specificity and detail, Dvibhumi’s aesthetic represents an emergent thinking that is modern and embraces stories unique to life in Asia. I can only say that my ultimate goal is to make a difference, and to change attitudes around design rooted in Asia. Let’s see how that goes!
I understand you live in Singapore but get a lot of your work done in South East Asia, and India. How is your experience working with artisans from these countries?
I design in Singapore and work with artisans in Southeast Asia and India. So it can get a bit chaotic, especially because I do everything on my own. Handling things remotely can get tricky, and is riddled with issues related to language, comprehension and quality control. Artisans are business people and lean towards larger volumes and using moulds. You need to establish relationships, set your expectations and foster a sense of common ambition. For example, my Jaipur artisans came to Amazon India Fashion Week 2015 where I was showcasing our work as part of ElleXFDCI’s First Cut. It was a tremendous validation of the effort they had put into making the jewellery. It is a fair bit of effort to ensure that the execution articulates the concept as intended. So there’s phone calling, emailing, receiving prototypes, sending them back along with detailed feedback, and such, and this takes time if you want good results from a less than ideal process. But going to the source makes it special and worth the effort. The final product tells the story in the richest, most authentic way. And every product is a labour of love, frustration and collaboration.
Would you say a single style unites all your work?
I like to use clean lines and surfaces in combination with textures and motifs. I employ restraint to allow my jewellery to go beyond statements and spark dialogue. I also like forms, and lean more towards matte and monochrome than bling and bright colours.
What aspects are you most interested in exploring in terms of design?
One, I want to bring good modern form and design to local and regional stories. Two, I like to improvise on existing formats and give them new meaning or infuse them with a story.
What techniques are you most fond of?
It’s exciting when we reapply skills. For example, for our Ayu Story, we worked with Balinese artisans trained in pattern making, wood carving and leather cutwork, but gave them a different medium to work with: wax. They had to apply their traditional skills to create moulds for the jewellery designs. Because they were making jewellery, the surface area is much smaller and required different tools and finer hand work.
There is something to be said about creating small batches of unique pieces. This is essentially how pieces were handcrafted in the past as well. What are your thoughts on this? Is Dvibhumi craft-centric?
My work loves and embraces traditional craft and skill, but is not bound by it. So at its core, Dvibhumi is more design-centric than craft-centric. Some of my designs are completely handmade, and some are moulds. Execution is very important, and some concepts are better executed with the help of more sophisticated tools. It is both charming and challenging to work with completely handmade small batches. In my experience, jewellery artisans are business people too. They’d rather work with large volumes and avoid traditional handcrafting altogether by using moulds. You really have to push them to get what you want. Like I mentioned earlier, fostering a common ambition is very important, and this takes time, effort and business considerations as well.
Your work place essentials?
South Indian filter coffee, and a regional language movie or television series from my growing up years playing in the background. One stimulates me, and the other comforts me.
Your favourite website you’ve bookmarked?
A few. I like Holinka Escudero (@jewelleryactivist) and Masala Chai on Instagram, Architectural Digest India, Business of Fashion, and Colossal on Facebook, and Harvard Business Review on Flipboard
What do you collect?
I’m not really a big collector of things, but I give into pangs that surface now and then. I click pictures of birds and mushrooms in the neighbourhood, and of buildings that go unnoticed. I pick up music and artefacts during travel. Just the usual.
What is your idea of luxury?
I think luxury is love that is aware. Love is raw emotion with no reason. If you can evaluate, appreciate and explain why you love or value something, it’s your luxury.
Who are the women you design for?
I like to design for women who like to ‘know’ rather than ‘just show’. They are naturally curious, plugged into contemporary themes and concepts but make independent and highly personal style choices.
Is there any piece of jewellery you wish you had designed?
Umm, not really.